Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Month: August 2013

Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like what the author is trying to do here – make a novel from the viewpoint of organ-donating clones who don’t see anything remotely wrong or amoral in what they’re in this world for. The trio in this book are simply three ordinary English people who potter and stumble about like nearly anyone else in this world. Even when two of them “complete” (die from donating one too many organs in the novel’s parlance), the third one doesn’t actively question her life or her purpose-bred role.

That aspect of it makes this book very convincing in one way – the ignorant sheep bred to provide others with healthy, functioning organs, only to drop dead blissfully when their own bodies fail them. It’s all part of life’s rich pageant.

So why only two stars? Because the book itself is written in such non-engaging, understated, mumbling language. A good two-thirds of it is, quite frankly, boring filler with Kathy just rambling dreamily on about one la-di-da thing after the other. But when the author gets to the brass tacks of this story – it’s a killer.

In summary, it’s an overall dreary book with very cogent and engaging moments. Not enough of them though. The parts don’t make the whole here.

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Dan Simmons – Flashback

FlashbackFlashback by Dan Simmons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If this book doesn’t serve as a wakeup call to the entitled, complacent masses, nothing will. Better than any conservative commentator or politician, Simmons sums up in fiction what many have been trying to say for decades. The world portrayed in this book is frighteningly real; a superb extrapolation from where we are right now. Most telling of the changes, in my opinion, is how over-accommodating political correctness has torn apart once strong and proud nations. This is happening as we speak. Sure, put your hands to your face and cry racism, like many of the reviewers here have, but I think you’re missing the bigger picture.

Apart from its social and political overtones, the story itself is a cracker. It’s one of the best murder-mysteries I’ve read. What’s going on in the novel politically does threaten to blot out all else but in the end, it all melds together.

I strongly recommend this book.

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Stephen Baxter – Voyage

Voyage (NASA Trilogy, #1)Voyage by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intriguing look at what might have happened had Nixon pursued the Mars mission ideas after Apollo finished, and not went ahead with the Space Shuttle. This is probably the most hardcore hard science book I’ve read of Baxter’s and despite all the technological ooh aah going on in this book, there’s not much in the way of human character development.

In fact, you can safely ignore the characterisations, just see them as mainly male ciphers with a token female cipher thrown in. I can’t blame Baxter for this – and his characterisations are usually better – but having strongly defined people isn’t the point of this book. This is all about what the US and the world missed out on back in the late 60s and the names and faces don’t really matter.

Highly recommended.

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Dan Simmons – Fires of Eden

Fires of EdenFires of Eden by Dan Simmons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two thirds of this novel are very good. The last third ventures into ludicrous territory. With that out of the way, it was good to see Cordie Stumpf nee Cooke back in action. There wasn’t enough of her in Summer of Night but I’m glad she’s here and in cracking good form.

In all, I’d describe this book as serviceable horror and it does serve quite nicely as a travelogue for Hawaii’s Big Island and a minor exposition of the native culture and religion of the islands.

Shame about that ludicrous last third though.

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Gone Home – short but sweet

I spent $18 on Gone Home on Steam after reading a glowing review of it on Gamespot. I’m still undecided on whether it was worth that as you only get about two and a bit hours of gameplay out of it. There’s probably minimal replay potential in it too.

Oh well, it’s mine now.

screenshot

The game has gone pre-Raphaelite

There’s no fighting, no puzzles…just you (Katie) coming home from Europe to an empty house in Oregon. Little by little you piece what’s happened while you’ve been away. Essentially, little sister Sam is growing up and Mum and Dad are trying to get their middle-aged lives back in order. Nothing too serious – no skeletons jump out, no zombie apocalypse, no bodies in the attic (though I did expect the last). It’s all very tame in that department.

The game is 90% about Sam and her lovelorn issues. Really, I shouldn’t be too flippant about it, but I could never connect with her problems. From a selfish point of view, I never had these sorts of dramas in my life at seventeen and so there’s no empathic connection. But yes, it is all very touching. It certainly touched the psyches of many of who’ve played this according to reviews and commentaries.

Cobain in the groove

One of the wall posters in the game

It’s funny, the house layout (a little bit hard to believe) reminded me of the mansion in Realms of the Haunting. I wonder if there was any inspiration there?

A funny thing is the lack of computers in the Greenbriar house. They did exist in the family home in 1995, trust me. The internet was new, but since the father is a novelist, I thought he at the least would’ve owned one. Negative. There’s nought to be found.

Calling Gone Home a game might be a stretch too. There’s minimal interaction save a lot of reading and listening to Sam’s diary entries. There’s none of the adventure game thing where you mess with your inventory or solve puzzles to advance a plot. It’s certainly entertaining though…but it’s too damned short.

Actually, for a very poignant review, try this. Summarises it better than I can.

What D&D character am I?

I Am A: Chaotic Neutral Human Druid (5th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-13
Dexterity-13
Constitution-11
Intelligence-13
Wisdom-9
Charisma-12

Alignment:
Chaotic Neutral A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn’t strive to protect others’ freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal. However, chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:
Druids gain power not by ruling nature but by being at one with it. They hate the unnatural, including aberrations or undead, and destroy them where possible. Druids receive divine spells from nature, not the gods, and can gain an array of powers as they gain experience, including the ability to take the shapes of animals. The weapons and armor of a druid are restricted by their traditional oaths, not simply training. A druid’s Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

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Detailed Results:

Alignment:
Lawful Good —– XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Neutral Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Chaotic Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
Lawful Neutral — XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
True Neutral —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (22)
Chaotic Neutral – XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (23)
Lawful Evil —– XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Neutral Evil —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (18)
Chaotic Evil —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (19)

Law & Chaos:
Law —– XXXX (4)
Neutral – XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaos — XXXXXXXXXXX (11)

Good & Evil:
Good —- XXXXXX (6)
Neutral – XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Evil —- XXXXXXXX (8)

Race:
Human —- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf —- XXXXXXXX (8)
Elf —— XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Gnome —- XXXX (4)
Halfling – XXXX (4)
Half-Elf – XXXXXXXXX (9)
Half-Orc – XXXXXXXXXX (10)

Class:
Barbarian – (-2)
Bard —— (-4)
Cleric —- (-6)
Druid —– XXXXXX (6)
Fighter — (-2)
Monk —— (-21)
Paladin — (-15)
Ranger —- (-2)
Rogue —– (0)
Sorcerer — XX (2)
Wizard —- XX (2)

Rush – Power Windows

Studio album number eleven. This was the second record of Rush’s I ever bought and frankly, I was bitterly appalled when I first listened to it. You see, Permanent Waves was the first and you could not find two albums that differ so much. At least at first appearances. I even remember telling a friend at the time that Rush had turned into Foreigner.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, repeated listens are the key with Rush, and Power Windows really does take off with each groove. Keyboards are prominent here, though they reached their apex on Hold Your Fire, the next record. But guitars are prominent too. In fact, everything is upfront.

Nothing here truly rocks, but it’s all grand stuff. It’s over the top synth heavy hard rock, and tracks like Territories and Grand Design rate amongst Rush’s best. Atmospheric power. In fact, the album’s title encapsulates this record perfectly. There’s power here, but there’s also an opening to the vast and thundering world beyond.

Through the eight cuts on this record, you get the sense that Rush is trying to address the common yearning of people struggling to break free of suburban mediocrity, a transcending from the average and everyday. Whatever the case may be, this is the midpoint of their 80s synth records and rates amongst their best in my book.

They never did an album this expansive again.

power windows

Mark Lawrence – Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1)Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not your typical fantasy book, and for that the author has my thanks. The protagonist is a complete hell-bent on revenge psychopath, and he’s only a teenager to boot. It’s that teenaged aspect that pushed this book into the realm of “yeah right” and stopped me from awarding it five stars.

But the journey is a complete riotous rampage and if you’re in tune to this book, it’s a strange delight but I can see why it turned off so many others.

Not for everyone, but it worked for me.

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